Events, dear boy, events - 24/04/2020
Something a little different this week.
Rather than talk about the current political situation, perhaps we can talk a bit about how we got here, then to the future and what we can do to help shape it.
We started Renew as a vehicle for those politically disenchanted people and groups (like us) who were no longer prepared to support failed parties in a failing system and who wanted to get involved and participate in politics more actively. We wanted to bring in fresh faces, fresh blood and harness the skills of those with real experience outside of the standard, politically ambitious classes and tribes.
But, as we know, the best political plans tend to be knocked off-course by, (in the likely apocryphal words of Harold Macmillan) "Events, dear boy, events."
Whilst Macmillan had to contend with the 'Profumo affair' (such a beautifully understated use of the word 'affair'), Renew (and the rest of the UK) had to contend with Brexzilla, as it ran rampant, transforming from a merely terrible political idea to an all-consuming national identity crisis.
Somewhere along the way, our goal of growing a challenger, start-up, grassroots political movement got swept up in the tornado, even at the same time as all our potential goodwill, publicity, donors and voters were dragged back from the centre to the extremes, as the Brexit stakes and the country's temperature got higher and higher.
At a time when faith in the two main political parties was at an all-time low, 82.3% voted for them in 2017 (and 75.7% did in 2019); politics became a game of attrition. We contested election after election where people on the doors loved and respected what we stood for and what we set out to achieve, but simply had to vote Conservative to keep that awful man Corbyn out, or vote Labour to stop those unconscionable Tories (even in seats which were not remotely marginal): "Next time, we'll vote for you.", we heard, over and again.
And then came...
The TIGgers, who came, saw and scarpered.
The Lib Dems, who got lit up then extinguished like a crap firework.
GE2019, which loomed like a dark portent and then left like a bad smell.
And now, the virus.
Half of the country on lockdown and the other half frantically working to save lives and the economy.
Events, dear boy.
So what happens next?
There has been a great deal of talk about tectonic shifts socially, a new normal, a quiet revolution, downsizing, a new capitalism (or socialism), UBI, homeworking, even a climate breakthrough. In the UK, the Government has veered from crowing about their Withdrawal Agreement and announcing lavish spending on new Tory-voting constituencies to underwriting the biggest social and financial bailout in UK history. Labour have elected a credible leader that their bitterly divided party doesn't deserve and the Lib Dems are stowed away in witness protection.
As for Renew, we must now refocus on our identity and return to our core values and our raison d'etre. As I often say, the fundamentals have not changed; the system remains broken, the parties are dysfunctional and the legions of disenchanted voters (and non-voters) haven't gone away. We need to go back to the reasons why we started a party called 'Renew' and did not simply join a campaign group or form a single issue anti-Brexit party.
We need to differentiate ourselves from both the mainstream parties and the smaller ones.
Renew was, and is, about Reform, Renewal, Inclusion, Civic Participation, Systemic Change, Electoral Reform, Modernising, Fresh Faces, Supporting Political Activity, Openness, Harnessing Technology, Transparency, Fairness, Competence and Doing Things Differently.
Renew is about Something New.
To this end, we need to talk less about policies, elections, constituencies, leaders, left, right and (forgive me) 'centrist politics' and all the terminological traps of a political game rigged to reward the incumbents, and present ourselves as what we are, a welcome place for people who want to get involved in politics without all the repellent, fusty, childish paraphernalia associated with the reds, blues, yellows, greens and other exclusive, tribal clubs.
We need to give a voice to those who have no medium, to those on the periphery, to those turned off by the politics of colours, people from all walks of life. We need to be the vehicle for those who want to get involved and Get Heard.
This is going to mean a lot of things. It will mean reaching out to like-minded groups, especially those involved in Electoral Reform, it will mean Renew people participating in local community and action groups, building credibility, giving Renewers a good reputation. It will likely mean offering our support to those who wish to stand as Independents. It will mean not giving up regardless of the odds. And it will mean developing good habits that start here, at home.
We are going to need everyone to contribute to Renew, to engage with us and to share your thoughts. So let's hear them, log-in to Digital Democracy (we can help with that), drop us an e-mail, even (gasp) pick up the phone.
As someone once said, 'there is no us and them, there's only us'.
Renew Skills Exchange
In recent years, it has become apparent that Renew is something of a family to many of us. We have begun to understand each other better, go out for drinks, share stories, and even meet each others' (actual) families. There was even a (quite annoying) office romance...
Perhaps we can go even further, and establish a formal Renew Skills Exchange?
The thing about Renewers is that we come from all different backgrounds, different regions and different walks of life (no matter what they say about us...) and we all have skills that we might be able to share, either online or 'IRL', (as the kids say), once the lockdown is over.
So, we are proposing that all Renewers share with us a skill that they would be happy to share with another Renewer for free. This has already started as Hackney's Hasseb and Elephant & Castle's James have been helping Bromley's Jyoti to learn guitar during lockdown by sharing videos and conducting live zoom tutorials. The results have been...breathtaking (video evidence TBA).
So, rack your brains and think of how you might help out your fellow supporter.
Here are a few examples of skills found in existing exchanges around the UK.
- Language learning
- Music lessons
- Careers advice
- Painting (oil as well as living room)
- IT help (turn it off and on again)
- Legal tips
- Accounting help
- Property sales and rental advice
- How to sell vanilla pods
- DIY/Decorating (online and IRL)
- Gardening (as above)
- Travel tips
- Shopping tips
- Holiday homes
- Vehicle or equipment borrowing
- Money-saving tips
- Business admin
- Photography lessons
- Online research
- Insurance tips
- Driving lessons
- Dating advice
If you want to participate, please e-mail email@example.com and tell us what skill you'd be prepared to share. We will compile a database, which we can then share and get things underway. Let's see if we can't really try and be the change we want to see!
Can you do better than us?
A Renew badge is on offer for whoever comes up with the funniest alternative text! Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facebook Live, Tuesdays, 7 pm:
Your weekly update on all things Renew, hosted by Renew HQ and our members! It's your opportunity to get to know our Renewers and ask us questions. If you're interested in hosting one of these events, or you have any questions, email David. Catch-up on any you've missed on our Facebook page.
Zoom, Thursdays, 6-7 pm:
Get involved with Zoom Thursdays! Every week we host an informal, open Zoom chat in order to check-in and catch-up with our supporters. Last night we discussed the implications for a post-virus UK. For more details on next weeks meeting, make sure you check our Twitter and Facebook pages, where we'll post the meeting ID and password.
What we're reading
Coronavirus: working in the NHS - Carla Burns sheds some light on what it's like working within the NHS and supporting the front-line during the pandemic.
Coronavirus: a new way of thinking and living - Julie Alexander-Cooper tells us how she and her businesses have been coping through the coronavirus uncertainty.
Community and coronavirus - June Davies shares a touching piece on the importance of community during this time. Read how her community in Usk, Wales is handling the crisis.
Check out our coronavirus page for more stories on what Renewers have been doing within their local communities.
How have you been affected by COVID-19? Tell the comms team and get on the Renew blog!
Our 2020 strategy is up on Digital Democracy and is open to everyone, including non-members, just log in via your Facebook or Twitter account.
Members, as usual, have exclusive access to the full Digital Democracy platform. Please do keep submitting your policy suggestions - we love to hear what you have to say!
Quote of the week